Wednesday, April 20, 2011

And The Stone Rolls Back Down The Hill

His rash fierce blaze of riot cannot last,
For violent fires soon burn out themselves;
Small showers last long, but sudden storms are short;
He tires betimes that spurs too fast betimes;
With eager feeding food doth choke the feeder:
Light vanity, insatiate cormorant,
Consuming means, soon preys upon itself.
-- Richard II, Act II, Scene 1

Theatre is the phoenix's art: a big burst of passion and it's over -- for a little while, at least.  The cycle continues and continues.  (I wonder if that's why they call it "burnout?")

Friday, April 08, 2011

The Wisdom of A Pancake Juggler

"Scot Nery's Crash Course" photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

One of the amazing artists I've met in the past few years is Scot Nery.  He thinks like a performer -- there's no other way to put it.  His is a keen, entertainer's intellect.  I love talking shop with the guy (it doesn't happen enough for my taste) because he never fails to reframe my ill-formed opinions with the wisdom of a juggler who has performed around the world before thousands of people.

For instance, I posted this photo on Facebook, with the accompanying commentary:

My commentary:
It's a little apples and oranges, but yeah. Basically.

‎"Apples and oranges" because Dunham is a vent and the Muppets are ... well, the Muppets. A more appropriate comparison would be Edgar Bergen, particularly since Bubba J is a Mortimer Snerd knock-off.
Scot commented with the following:
They're dead.

Put up a picture of Satan's Angel (who's living) and how many burlesque performers can suck it?

It would be nice if people tried to do everything better than their predecessors, but even the trying isn't likely at all.
Edgar Bergen didn't invent the vent doll or the country-bumpkin character.  Scot's right!  Telling Dunham to "suck it" kind of misses the point:  He has only ever made a living as a ventriloquist.  What's more, he has put ventriloquism back into public view in a major way -- he's as big a celebrity as Bergen ever was.  (Read all about Dunham here.) 

Is Dunham's "art" as sophisticated as Bergen's or even Henson's?  Who cares.  The world would be a poorer place without ventriloquism, and Dunham is making it happen now. (Besides, eighty years from now people will most likely look back at Dunham the same way we look back at Bergen.)

Scot = Genius.

A few days later I posted this brilliant observation:
One of the disadvantges of theatre vs. film: In theatre, promotion and marketing is concurrent with pre-production.

You have to sell the thing before it has crystalized into something saleable.
Scot Nery:
movies might as well be the same. They don't advertise what you get. My mantra is "Lie to make it sound good, but so they won't be disappointed when they see it."

All the stuff I've promoted for myself has been impossible to describe and ...make it sound worth seeing. I sometimes have to make up some description that's totally different from the show and then make the show so good that people don't worry about what got them in the joint.
I have nothing to add, other than:  Genius.

Definitely check out Scot Nery online at his website,  But nothing compares with catching his act live!  He has a performance calendar on the site, and I highly recommend tracking his pancake-juggling-ass down.  You won't be disappointed!

Friday, April 01, 2011

Gone to Croatan

So--the very first colony in the New World chose to renounce its contract with Prospero (Dee/Raleigh/Empire) and go over to the Wild Men with Caliban. They dropped out. They became "Indians," "went native," opted for chaos over the appalling miseries of serfing for the plutocrats and intellectuals of London.
- Hakim Bey
(A huge asshole who wrote one great essay,
This blog is going to Croatan.

Instead of armchair-philosophizing about the specific world of Under-99 seat Theatre, I'm refocusing my efforts on the broad and vital universe of the variety arts.  There's a quote from Peter Brook that I've dog-eared the hell out of on this here blog.  Indulge me one more time:
It is always the popular theatre that saves the day. Through the ages it has taken many forms, and there is only one factor that they all have in common -- a roughness. Salt, sweat, noise, smell: the theatre that's not in a theatre, the theatre on carts, on wagons, on trestles, audiences standing, drinking, sitting round tables, audiences joining in, answering back: theatre in back rooms, upstairs rooms, barns; the one-night stands, the torn sheet pinned up across the hall, the battered screen to conceal the quick changes -- that one generic term, theatre, covers all this and the sparkling chandeliers too.
"Salt, sweat, noise, smell."

Truly theatrical, and truly mad.